I came out of the supermarket and was on my way to my parked car when suddenly I experienced one of those sharp intake of breath moments of the sort, if you are male, that is normal reserved for an excruciatingly attractive female crossing the line of vision.
But, that wasn’t the case this time. Under these circumstances it was a man sitting in the passenger seat of a parked car. I almost did a double-take because this guy looked, at first glimpse, exactly like my old man.
Closer scrutiny bore testimony to the fact it wasn’t my dad. Couldn’t have been as Dad has been dead since 1996. But, the moment did give me an almost disquieting turn.
Disquieting because in the immediate aftermath of the non-encounter I found myself disrupted, for want of a more apt word. I also felt sad. Actually quite sad. Sad primarily for what came and then left and things that can never now be addressed.
It was apt, I suppose, that this brief encounter came just a few days prior to Father’s Day – a manufactured holiday that during his lifetime I never paid a lot of attention to. Mainly because I didn’t believe that he deserved a lot of that old paternal attention.
That was because I didn’t like my dad much when I was a kid. I really didn’t like him at all when I was a teen (but this is the norm for adolescent boys in more cases than not), and I begrudged (is that a word?) him for too much of my adulthood.
In a way he deserved the antipathy because temperament-wise he was never an easy son of a bitch. Volatile of mood I never could be quite certain where he would be. Also highly controlling, impatient, and intolerant of my wants and needs. Wants and needs that ‘I’, being the person with said wants and needs believed to be non-negotiable.
And his temperament, much like somebody pissing in a wine vat, tended to pollute the vintage of our relationship.
It was only later, when I learned a few home truths, and came to a few realizations that I started to understand where he was coming from – just a little bit.
Raised also by a tyrannical father, he could only deal out what he understood. He was also married to a chronic alcoholic wife who was arguably the most self-indulgent person I’ve ever known. Good old Mumsy could have turned a saint unsaintly. Not that she was irredeemably awful, just that she was ever-changing, like most drunks in that regard.
It was only when it was nearly too late that I came to understand the good things he gave me, such as:
– a respect for hard work.
– The need for a good education.
– Being honorable in all that I do.
– Good manners.
– An ability to stand up for myself.
– Familial support while I completed my education, and encouragement that I must indeed complete my education.
– Probably more love than he was ever able to overtly show, but did indeed show in other ways.
I remember once when I was about 14 that my mother went away to stay with a sister for a week. Just Dad and me alone. I was wary of what that would be like. What it was like was actually just terrific. Two bachelor guys under the roof. We kidded around, prepared crappy meals, went out for other crappy meals, and just enjoyed ourselves. The day ‘herself’ was returning it all changed and went to hell, and her returned to his default prickish self.
If I’d been smart I would have been able to figure out what that was all about. But I guess I was too young to ‘get it’. Too bad.
But, by the end of his life a lot of this stuff had been resolved in my mind.
And that was why, when I saw his doppelganger the other day I just felt kind of sad because I finally had realized I miss him.
Happy Father’s Day, Dad.